tv To the Contrary With Bonnie Erbe WHUT February 21, 2013 9:00am-9:30am EST
>> funding for "to the contrary" provided by: the cornell douglas foundation committed to encouraging stewardship of the environment, land conservation, watershed protection and eliminating harmful chemicals. additional funding provided by: the colcom foundation. the wallace genetic foundation and by the charles a. frueauff foundation. >> this week a special edition of "to the contrary" >> i'll give eight shot. >> that's the time that you go. >> common sensical solution. >> i was warned that it might well cost me my seat.
>> we have long traditional of women working. >> i was fortunate to have a mother who felt like anything was possible. >> hello, i'm bonnie erbe welcome to "to the contrary." women have served in congress since 1917 when a republican, jeanette rankin was elected from montana. this year a new group of woman in the house determined to make a difference. we sat down with many of them and now we're introducing them to you so you can see what they have planned.
>> a live long res sent of arizona. sinema comes from humble beginnings. >> my family was actually homeless when i was a kid for two years after my parents got divorced, my family lived in an abandoned gas station. we lived without running water, we lived without electricity. you know, sometimes we didn't have enough food to eat. and it was thanks to family and friends and my parents' church and sometimes even the state and local government that we were able to make it through. it was kind of a combination of hard work and determination and help and support by those around you. that's how i was successful. >> sinema got her start in politics in 2004, when she ran for a seat in the arizona legislature. >> i had been a social worker in a low income community for several years. and i started going down to the capitol to lobby to try and help change state policies so we could create more opportunity, so people could actually move from poverty to self-sufficiency, find a job,
get on their feet, not need help from the government any longer. and when i got to the state capitol i got frustrated because i didn't think that many folks were looking at kind of innovation or change. so i thought, well i'll give it a shot. >> after serving in both chambers of the legislature sinema decided she wanted to change the face of congress. >> they seemed more interested in bickering than solving problems. and i thought, congress needs some more people who know how to get stuff done. and as a social worker that's been my job and as a member of the arizona state legislature, that was always my goal. so i thought maybe i could bring a little common sense and practicality. >> sinema was catapulted to the national spotlight during her campaign. as a member of the lgbt community, she is the first openly bisexual member of congress. but despite the attention, she says her sexual orientation doesn't matter. >> i've been out for many, many years. just nobody cares. i've served in arizona state legislature for about seven
years and this is just not really an issue. i think people are most concerned about whether or not i'm serving their interests in my duty as a public servant and so they want to know that i'm voting in their best economic interest and i'm taking action to help protect them and their families and taking action for the future and they're just not interested in any of the social stuff. >> and her personal diversity represents the vast diversity of this new arizona district. >> it's an incredibly diverse district home to arizona state university, the largest university in the country which i'm honored and privileged to teach at as well. but also home to sunny slope, which is a community that i worked at when i was a social worker for nearly a decade. one of the most low-income communities in our community. we're also home to the biltmore, which is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the state. and so it's an incredibly
diverse and rich district with seniors and anglos and latinos all of us together. and what i'm excited to do is learn about the deepest fabric of that district and try and >> the number one priority i have is to help people feel that sense of economic security by creating jobs and creating a climate where jobs can flourish. so ensuring that high wage, high tech jobs come to our district, that they stay in our district and that we have an educated work force that is ready to take advantage of those jobs that we have tomorrow. >> i come from a large family that is very supportive. i was very fortunate growing up in a large family where all of us, because my mother and father understood the value of education. somewhat nontraditional that all of us have advanced degrees, we
were able to go to college i'm a public school product, i'm very proud of that. i was always taught that it was never about me but it was about making a difference. >> and she's tried to make a difference by working in government, in the private sector and in academia as a senior vice president at ohio state university. >> i've had opportunity to be a healthcare administrator of a 141-bed hospital. i'm a small business owner and i have a love for financial literacy and making sure that young folks understand the value of the dollar. i'm a wife, i'm a step mother, i'm a sibling and so i think that i'm that well-rounded person that's coming to congress. >> despite reservations from those close to her, beatty ran for office because she says she's a problem solver who loves a challenge.
>> when i get asked the question of why going and why now with all the gridlock, one of the things that comes to my mind immediately, that's the time that you go. with so much at stake, with so many things to work on, it's the time to go in and to have resolve and come up with answers that can help solve the problems and being able to reach across the aisle. and having so many women here now, i am so confident that we will be able to work together and be part of the solution. >> beatty joins cleveland democrat, marcia fudge, making it the first time ohio will have two african american u.s. representatives. >> i think when we go out and young folks, women and men look to us. we're part of a history, we're part that allows, especially young girls to be able to say,
i, too, can go to washington and serve in congress because there was a joyce beatty. >> beatty says a diverse congress means less gridlock, and more action. >> i think there will be some changes in the house because of the diversity of the caucus and we are more reflective of america. >> beatty is ready to resolve the differences between members of congress and believes that can only be done when both sides compromise. >> democrats are going to be democrats and republicans are going to be republicans and on many things our core is very different. i think you have to look at both sides of the equation and i think you have to come up with some resolves that are palatable for both sides of the aisle. i don't think we've spent a lot of time figuring out how we can work together. i think in the past there was too much time spent on making sure we were on opposite pages. i don't think you'll find anyone
that's truly going to be anti-seniors, anti-education, anti-building. there is that percentage on things where there is room for us to develop a plan that will help us as we look at the many reforms. >> it's a different kind of a background. i was a tv reporter in a cbs affiliate in south bend when i came back from college. and then after my husband and i got married i did four years in bucharest, romania. our church had asked us if we would go, for a two-year stint, so we sold our house, sold everything we had made the provision, raised the money, got there and then started our organization. and so we ended up living there four years but it actually precipitated my run for the indiana state house. having an opportunity to be in a different place, different culture and understanding what role government can and can't play when it comes to, you know, governing. >> and run she did.
walorski served three terms in the indiana state house. >> we were a billion dollars in debt, we had very well intentioned people, everybody was doing what they thought they should do. our state was in the bottom of the barrel in this nation. we were 49th and 50th in virtually every grid you can imagine and today we are on the top five. so we really had chance to do some significant reforms in our state, balance our budget. today we are aaa bond rating, higher than the federal government. and, i'm proud, to be from the state of indiana because we have really been able to accomplish a lot with working together, living within our means, and doing exactly what we said we would do, which is to be one of the greatest job providers in the nation. >> walorski thinks indiana should be an example to the rest of the nation. >> we balanced the budget and we did it with bipartisan support and just very common sense people doing common sense things. hoosiers are known for common sensical kind of solutions and wanting to be a part of a bigger solution. and i think we've been a model for the country, and one of the
things i've talked about in my district for a long time is we can do, we really can at the federal level what we did in the state of indiana and we really can work across the aisle. >> so, she decided to run for federal office to bring her solutions to washington. she lost in 2010. but, this past november, she narrowly defeated her opponent. now, she's ready to work together to get things done. >> i can say that in this congress, yes, there is partisan divide, i can tell you i am optimistic about the freshman class. we have found ways to work together >> but she's already started something big. >> we co-sponsored a bill yesterday about freezing pay. you know, this is crazy, moms are at home right now in northern indiana in elkhart, south bend, indiana, they are shopping this morning, you know they are buying milk and they're buying eggs, they're paying the mortgage and they're the ones putting gas in the car. and they know if that bottomline, that checkbook says there's no money there's no money. and so, these common sense
things like saying to the american people, i'm gonna hold this congress accountable. we're gonna freeze your pay. >> as a republican woman, walorski especially feels the pressure to work together. >> i'm working with women across the aisle. and the bond that gender brings to be able to reach across the aisle and find commonality not just in gender but in doing right for the sake of right. women are obviously inspired by different reasons, women want to make a difference. not that everybody else doesn't they do as well. but there's a benefit in being able to reach across the aisle to democratic women and we've already done that and you're gonna see in the future here some bills roll out that'll have a lot of female support and is right for the sake of right. >> and she wants to inspire women far beyond the halls of capitol hill. >> every opportunity i have to stand in front of group of people and say to girls in the state of indiana, you can do this and you can be president. there is no celing, as far as your dreams will take you, you can go. i think there's an advantage,
huge advantage, of elected official being a woman. and i think what that gender edge does, it allows me to look in a camera, it allows me to look in the eyes of women, and understand what women's health issues are like. it allows me to understand what it means to run a household. i pay my bills too. my husband is a public school teacher and ever since we've been married, i keep the checkbook and i pay the bills. women in our nation are growing segment of who we are. >> i come from this line of women who, if they see something that needs to be fixed they get in there, roll up their sleeves and fix it. and that for me came in involvement around the public schools in 2005 and i was unhappy with decisions being made on the local level. and my daughter, who at the time was 15, said, "mom, you always taught us if you see a problem
you can fix, fix it yourself. they've asked you to run, you could run. i'll run your campaign." she was 15 years old, i'll run your campaign, but you should run or don't complain. so i said, "looks like you're going to run my campaign." and she did, and i won and that's really what sent me on this path. >> esty went from that school board to the connecticut legislature. she lost her seat in a close election over a hot button issue: the death penalty. >> the town i live in, which is a town of 30,000 people in a small town in connecticut, went through a really wrenching, horrible home invasion and murder of most of a family and this was in 2007, it was so shocking. and in 2009 shortly after i took office we were asked to vote on a bill to abolish the death penalty in connecticut and i was warned that it might as well cost me my seat if i voted my conscience and my belief and my knowledge about how the death penalty actually doesn't work in our state.
but i felt it was very important and believed it was important to exercise my best judgment as well as my belief to take that vote. it did cost me my seat in the election. >> but she ran again in 2012 and won. this time, at the federal level becoming a member of the u.s. house of representatives. and she maintained her values and beliefs. >> i ran as and won as somebody who is principled and who is going to fight hard for my district. but i am willing to take principled stances that need to be taken for us to move forward as a country. and i think that is what the voters of my district elect me to do is to be a powerful voice for them, regardless of the risk to me politically. they want me to be fearless that way and i look forward to that opportunity to be their advocate and be a strong voice. >> and esty wants to start with herself. as a state representative, she
cut her own pay. as a federal representative, she has plans to do the same. >> i thought it was important to lead by example and i think this year again we are facing very tough times with the federal budget. people's personal budgets are very tight and i think it is an appropriate move for us to look at cutting congressional pay or at least look at no pay if we don't achieve a budget that's agreed upon, that we need to hold ourselves accountable. >> esty is ready to hold herself accountable to the voters. her top priority? growing connecticut's economy. >> we talked a lot about jobs and the economy and in my district one of the central features has been around small business and that's particularly important for women because so many small businesses are run by women. and this is a tremendous opportunity all across my district, including for the
inner cities where you see a lot of entrepreneurship but we don't have a lot of access to credit. but it's also an opportunity around manufacturing which happens to be quite important in my district as well. and there are wonderful jobs but we don't have the skill sets so i'm very interested in looking at developmental skill of young people in high school and in community colleges, for example, to have skills that will allow them to do manufacturing in the 21st century. >> and despite being in the minority party, she feels she can get all this and more done. >> i am an optimist and i want to see forward progress for this country. so i hope we move forward with the resolution that allows us to really address these long term issues for the american people. >> i was raised in concord, new hampshire. the youngest of five children. and my family was very politically active.
my mother was in the new hampshire legislature for 25 years. and she actually ran for this seat in congress in 1980. and my father served on our executive council. he was mayor of the city of concord and he ran for governor when i was growing up as well. >> annie custer was literally raised on new hampshire politics. and helped out in many political campaigns during her teenage years. after graduating from dartmouth and georgetown law school she worked on presidential campaigns for john kerry in 2004 and president obama in 2008. in 2010, kuster ran for office herself. >> a very good time to get involved in the political process myself. so i ran in 2010 and only lost by 3,000 votes in a big republican wave. it made all the sense in the world to run again. >> kuster is a part of the new hampshire matriarchy. she represents her state along with another congresswoman, two
female senators and governor maggie hassan. >> we have a long tradition of women working in new hampshire. i also think that the electorate has a great deal of respect for women. we were very fortunate with senator jean shaheen, who was our first woman governor, and the only woman in the country to serve as both governor and in the united states senate. i think the voters have tremendous respect for the performance of women in politics. we maybe tend to be a little bit less contentious, a little bit more conciliatory in terms of bringing people together, looking for compromise, looking for ways to work together, and that's what the voters are looking for now. >> kuster hopes having more women in congress means more legislation that will impact women. >> i've been very interested in talking already with republican and democratic women about helping our women in the military, making sure that they're safe from sexual assault
and making sure that they have the services they need. so i think there are a few issues like that, but for the most part the issues that we're working on impact men and women, they impact families all across the state. >> kuster comes from a military family. her father and her father-in-law served in world war ii and her sons are interested in joining the military. she serves on the house committee on veterans affairs. >> i want to make sure that we support the veterans that are coming home from the wars. i was not a big supporter of the war in afghanistan and i think i certainly support the president in winding the war down, but i feel very, very strongly that we owe it to our men and women in uniform to be supportive with job opportunities, with access to high quality healthcare, and making sure that the sacrifice that they've made and their families have made will be
rewarded in the end that we will stand by them. >> apart from her legal background, kuster has also worked with new hampshire's business and nonprofit communities. she is confident she'll be able to use those experiences to help her constituents. >> well, there's certainly times with overly burdensome government regulation that can be very costly to small business and i'm particularly aware of the small business community in new hampshire because that's where most of our jobs are created, the mom and pop stores and the small businesses and manufacturing and then in the non-profit arena there are expenses with complying with government regulations. and i want to make sure that if we are looking out for health and safety that that's important we want workers to be in a safe environment. but i want to make sure that we aren't overburdening our small businesses and non-profits.
>> i grew up in a family that was going through a lot of challenges economically, but i had incredible opportunity given that i got to go to college with student loans and financial aid and work study programs and get a great education. >> delbene was born in alabama but moved around the country as her parents looked for work. after college delbene worked in oregon as a researcher in molecular immunology. later she moved to seattle and earned her mba. delbene worked 12 years for microsoft, helped create drugstore.com, she advised a nonprofit that offered microfinance and acheived a number of other entrepreneurial successes. >> i've always been in a position where i could take care of my family. and i think over time we've made it harder and harder for families. and i think policy is something we can use to help make sure
everyone has access to opportunity. and that's really what leads me to want to run for office in the first place. >> in 2010 delbene ran for congress - but lost. that's when washington governor christine gregoire appointed her to head the state's department of revenue. delbene tried again in a new district in 2012 and won. as a u.s. representative she brings real-world business experience to washington dc. >> i am a businesswoman and entrepreneur and i think bringing some of that real world, private sector, as well as my experience running the department of revenue in the state of washington so on the public sector side, gives me a good combination to help put policy together that i think could have a real impact to get people back to work and put policies in place that support working families and equal
rights. delbene also understands non-profts. she's worked with women in south america providing them access to capital and resources. >> i went into the non-profit world kind of as my desire to make a difference and give people access to opportunity and micro finance is one way to help do that that. that was mostly international effort and work we were doing outside of the united states and i think there's a kind of work that we need to do right here at home. that's really what led me more to look at policy here domestically what we can do, because we have a lot of families struggling right now. there's a lot of work that we can do right here to make sure all americans have access to opportunities. >> delbene calls for building a strong foundation. >> we need to continue to make sure we invest in an incredibly strong education system from early learning all the way through our higher education so people have access to opportunity. >> elected to congress this year. she says the way to encourage
women in politics and business is to make good role models. >> many women have really looked to see what other women are doing and understand that that's possible. i was fortunate to have a mother who felt like anything was possible and so i always felt like anything was possible that gave me the confidence to pursue my interests. >> that's it for this special edition of "to the contrary." please follow me on twitter @bonnieerbe or @tothecontrary and check our website, where the discussion continues. whether you agree or think, to the contrary, please join us next time.
>> funding for "to the contrary" provided by: the cornell douglas foundation committed to encouraging stewardship of the environment, land conservation, watershed protection and eliminating harmful chemicals. additional funding provided by: the colcom foundation. the wallace genetic foundation and by the charles a. frueauff foundation. for a copy of "to the contrary" please contact federal news service at 1-888-343-1940.